Devon is a particularly artsy county – which is unsurprising given the beautiful, inspirational scenery and artisanal produce the region is famed for. As a result of this, there are many great arts and crafts events taking place throughout the year, including the annual Craft Festival which is one of the best craft events in the whole of Europe. We’ve listed our six favourite Devonshire arts and crafts events below, to give you a flavour of what the county can offer.
Although the majority of the arts and craft fairs happen throughout the summer months, the county’s many diverse gallery exhibitions, local theatres, craft workshops and, of course, the Christmas fairs, ensure that you’ll be sure to get your artsy fix in Devon, no matter the season!
If you’re travelling with younger kids then a trip to the magical House of Marbles in the market town of Bovey Tracey should definitely be on the cards. Their wonderful collection of intricate marble runs, traditional toys, board games, fairground mirrors, a lovely garden area and even a giant floating marble, is sure to delight and entrance younger members of the family and, what’s more, the entrance is completely free. Another great artsy spot for all the family is the Paint Hub, over in Dawlish Warren, South Devon. You can paint your own pottery here, as well as design and make your own bear and try your hand at painting with acrylics. Kids will love all the fun activities as well as the colourful café itself, with fresh coffee for the parents and plenty of cake options for the kids.
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Craft Festival Bovey Tracey
Location: Bovey Tracey
Dates: Friday 7th – Sunday 9th June 2019
Go for: One of the best contemporary craft festivals around!
This exciting annual event in Bovey Tracey is definitely the West Country’s biggest craft festival. Featuring over 200 of the UK’s finest makers, the event includes workshops, demonstrations, a Craft Cinema, children’s activities and entertainment, food stalls, live music and street theatre. As well as the festival, there’s plenty to do and see in the pretty cob and Dartmoor-granite built town of Bovey Tracey, which is known as the ‘gateway to Dartmoor’ – one of the UK’s largest national parks. The streets here are lined with pretty shops, selling the craftwork and artisanal produce for which the town is famous.
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Axe Vale Show
Dates: Saturday 22nd – Sunday 23rd June 2019
Go for: A wide range of entertainment, sure to keep everyone happy
Over in East Devon, the annual show has been happening for 25 years. This weekend-long event, which usually takes place in June, is held in a showground on the outskirts of the pretty market town of Axminster. There is an array of exciting live entertainment taking place throughout the two days, including an agricultural show, BMX stunts, falconry displays and a Punch & Judy show. The show also hosts a ‘Craft Marquee’ dedicated to local arts and crafts – there are over fifty small stalls housed inside, each displaying an array of handmade items, from jewellery and handmade leather belts to photography and wooden toys. With a great mix of live shows and food and drink stands, as well as plenty of opportunities to browse and buy local arts and crafts, The Axe Vale Show really is a fun day out for all the family.
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Dartmouth Art & Craft Weekend
When: Saturday 29th – Sunday 30th June 2019
Go for: Supporting a good cause and to get a flavour of the local art scene (and cakes)
In aid of Children’s Hospice in the South West, Dartmouth’s annual Art & Craft Weekend is a great opportunity to meet local artists and craftworkers and admire their handiwork. This two-day event is a very relaxed affair, and families with children and/or dogs are very welcome. It is also accessible for wheelchair users.
As well as art and craft stalls, there will also be live music and children’s activities throughout the day, as well as tea and an array of delicious homemade cakes and snacks, all provided by the lovely volunteers from the Children’s Hospice. So make sure you support them by eating plenty of treats!
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Want to explore the scenery which inspires so many of the local artists? You could always combine a visit to the Dartmouth Art & Craft Weekend with a relaxing ramble in the nearby Dartmoor National Park
Ocean Artists & Makers Market
When: Saturday 6th – Sunday 7th July 2019
Go for: The ultimate in seaside shopping!
Head to Britain’s Ocean City for an Arts and Crafts Market with a difference. Set in the Royal William Yard, which was once a major victualling depot for the Royal Navy, Ocean Artists & Makers Market offers a fresh, contemporary take on the traditional craft market experience. Instead of being merely a selling opportunity for makers, it’s instead a chance for them to meet and interact with other like-minded creatives, as well as really get to know their customers. The market boasts a great array of beautifully-designed goods, including textiles, mosaics, pottery and jewellery. It also boasts a great selection of affordable art, photography and prints – perfect for that bare wall you have back at home.
For those who prefer sports to shopping, there will also be a ‘Wimbledon Screen on the Green’, which will be showing live matches throughout both the days. Once you’ve worked up an appetite (who knew craft fairs could be such hard work!?), it’s time to cast your eyes towards the many pop-up food stalls lining the yard. If you still have time (and energy) to spare after the market, then it’s definitely worth heading into the historic town of Plymouth for a wander around.
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Love the sound of an art-filled getaway? Here are the seven art galleries outside London which you really need to visit
Exeter Craft Festival
When: Thursday 4th – Saturday 6th July 2019
Go for: The amazing atmosphere and the chance to meet some of the region’s finest creators
Exeter’s annual craft festival has been taking place for over 40 years now and is a key part of the city’s cultural calendar. During this 3-day event, a small village of tents takes up residence on the Cathedral Green, through which excited crowds wander. The festival attracts some of the West Country’s best artists and makers and gives the public plenty of opportunities to discover their products, chat with them and even see them at work. The atmosphere is friendly and buzzy – you truly feel that event is first and foremost a celebration of the county’s impressive art scene.
As well as arts and crafts, you’ll also find singers, dancers and even a roaming jazz band at Exeter Craft Festival. The younger ones in the audience are also kept happy with face painting and a Punch & Judy show. This is truly one of the biggest and best craft shows in the West Country and is definitely worth planning a trip around.
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The Original Art Exhibition – Plough Arts Centre
When: Wednesday 27th Nov – Monday 23rd Dec 2019
Go for: Plenty of unusual and unforgettable Christmas gifts
A lovely little performing arts theatre, cinema and café in North Devon, the Plough Arts Centre also hosts regular exhibitions featuring local artists throughout the year. The Original Gifts Exhibition is a great excuse to get into the festive spirit and go shopping for a unique present for that special someone. The exhibition features over 40 stalls, selling pieces by local artists and makers. There is a diverse range of items on sale with a diverse variety of styles: ranging from traditional all the way through to contemporary. You could find anything from textiles, jewellery, glasswork, ceramics, woodwork, leather goods, candles, paintings and everything in between. One thing’s for certain: you’ll leave with plenty of special little Christmas craft gifts, all made with love, care and attention to detail, and you’ll have supported local artisans in the process. While you’re there, it’s also worth trying to catch one of the theatre’s live performances if you can!
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Tempted by a trip to Devon? You can find out more about this glorious region in our Devon travel guide